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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Miami Dolphins

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Last year was a mess for the Dolphins, one they hope to put behind them faster than a Mike Wallace go route. The Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga still hangs over the franchise's head, and they are desperate to turn the page.

The first move was revamping the offensive line, and they signed free agents at left tackle (Branden Albert) and left guard (Shelley Smith) and spent a first round pick on a right tackle in Ja'Wuan James and a third-round pick on a right guard in Billy Turner. That makes four new starters around center Mike Pouncey, who hopefully will be fine coming off hip surgery in June, and the goal is to help third-year starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked a league-high 58 times in 2013.

They also need to help the running game, which was putrid last year (No. 26 in the NFL), and adding Knowshon Moreno as a free agent should help. And the Dolphins have a new play-caller in Bill Lazor, who was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia last season.

We're not expecting the Dolphins to resemble the Eagles by any stretch, but there's plenty of talent in Miami to help Fantasy owners. Tannehill could emerge as a viable Fantasy quarterback, Moreno has the chance to remain a starting running back and Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay are either serviceable starters (Wallace) or bye-week replacements (Hartline and Clay).

Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry also have potential, but the key is the offensive line. As Pouncey said in an interview with CBSSports.com this offseason, "We're going to be ready to go." If you like any of the Dolphins players this year then let's hope Pouncey is right.

Reality after Peyton ... Knowshon Moreno

Moreno never had to worry about extra defenders near the line of scrimmage thanks to Manning and the Broncos passing game. He flourished in 2013 with career highs in rushing yards (1,038), rushing touchdowns (10), catches (60) and receiving yards (548), and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had 13 total touchdowns to finish as the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

Maybe Tannehill will earn that same respect to keep defenders concerned about his arm, but he'll never approach Manning's status. And because of that we expect Moreno to take a significant step back in production, along with a knee injury that could sideline him into training camp.

He also has to keep Miller off the field, and the Dolphins offensive line has to prove its worth. Moreno should still be considered a flex option if healthy and is worth drafting in Round 7 or 8 depending on the size of your league. But don't go into your season with Moreno as a starting option because you'll be left disappointed.

Better than you think ... Mike Wallace

Most Fantasy owners are going to look at Wallace's production in 2013 as a disappointment, and rightfully so. He finished the year with 73 catches for 930 yards and a career-low five touchdowns. But if he plays like he did at the end of the season -- he had 29 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns over the final six games, scoring at least 14 Fantasy points in three of those outings -- then he could rebound in 2014. And it's not a stretch in Lazor's offense.

The Dolphins didn't move Wallace around last year, but Lazor plans to use Wallace like the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson. Giving Wallace some different looks should help his production.

And when the Dolphins featured Wallace he was productive. He had at least nine targets in nine games and he finished with at least eight Fantasy points in seven of those contests.

He's the type of receiver you'll settle for on Draft Day with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 option, but don't be upset about it. If he plays like he did at the end of the season then you'll end up starting him more often than not.

This year's surprise? ... Ryan Tannehill

2013 Touches Leaders
706 total touches
Lamar Miller 203 (177 car., 26 rec.) 28.7%
Daniel Thomas 124 (109 car., 15 rec.) 17.6%
Mike Wallace 76 (3 car., 73 rec.) 10.8%
Charles Clay 76 (7 car. 69 rec.) 10.8%
Brian Hartline 76 rec. 10.8%
All Others 151 21.4%

Lazor was obviously influential in helping Foles have a breakout season with the Eagles last year, and hopefully his tutelage will rub off on Tannehill. It was hard to fully gauge Tannehill's growth in his sophomore campaign in 2013 because of all the sacks, but the potential is there.

He narrowly missed a 4,000-yard season (3,913), and he passed for 24 touchdowns. He also had at least 18 Fantasy points in seven games. But he struggled as well, and he only posted 20 or more Fantasy points three times, starting in Week 13.

The upgrades along the offensive line should help, as will the additions of Moreno and Landry, and Wallace gets another year in the system. We could see Tannehill emerge as a mid-season starter, much like Foles last year, and he's someone to monitor if he goes undrafted in the majority of leagues.

Schedule analysis

Moreno is going to see plenty of familiar faces this year since the Dolphins face the AFC West, including his former team. He had double digits in Fantasy points in at least one meeting with Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego last year, so hopefully he can repeat those performances. And he should be highly motivated to face the Broncos in Denver in Week 12.

The season opens with a home matchup against the Patriots, meaning you might want to avoid Wallace and his showdown with Darrelle Revis. And the Dolphins might not help you much toward the end of the Fantasy season with matchups against Denver, the Jets, Baltimore and New England from Weeks 12-15.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 1 running back? We're expecting Moreno to start for the Dolphins, if healthy, based on his body of work and performance in 2013, but Miller won't just hand him the job. We'll find out in training camp how Miller responds to being replaced, and keep in mind he's still a talented rusher, who has gotten the majority of offseason work. Maybe the offensive line held him back last year, and the play-calling under then-coordinator Mike Sherman was horrible. If Moreno is out for all of training camp then Miller would start. Both running backs are only worth drafting with mid-round picks.

Who's the No. 3 receiver? Wallace and Hartline are locked into the Top 2 spots on the depth chart, but Brandon Gibson, Landry and possibly Rishard Matthews will compete for the No. 3 role. Gibson was good in that role prior to going down with a knee injury with at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his first six games. But Landry was drafted in the third round after a productive career at LSU, and he has more upside than Gibson. Keep an eye on the battle, and the winner could be worth a late-round flier in deep PPR leagues.

Bold prediction

The Dolphins don't have an easy schedule to open the season with New England, Buffalo and Kansas City in the first three games, and those teams are going to challenge Miami's overhauled offensive line with a heavy pass rush. But if Tannehill can survive and somehow shine, he gets the Raiders in Week 4, which is a favorable matchup. A good performance there will catch Fantasy owners' attention heading into Miami's bye in Week 5, and in Week 6 they are home to Green Bay. Drew Brees will be on a bye that week, so Tannehill can be a definite option to start against the Packers. From that point forward he could develop into a weekly starter if he plays up to his potential.

Injury report

Brandon Gibson (knee), questionable for the start of training camp ... Knowshon Moreno (knee), questionable for the start of training camp ... Mike Pouncey (hip), questionable for the start of season

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Player News
Bengals' Tyler Eifert (shoulder) on track for start of camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is on target to participate from the start of training camp, Bengals.com reports.

Eifert tore his labrum last offseason and dislocated his elbow in the first quarter of his first regular-season game. Rather than return late in the year, he and the team opted for season-ending shoulder surgery. The tight end said that his elbow has been cleared and he's waiting to receive clearance on his shoulder in a few weeks.

"I tried to play through the year. Once I had elbow surgery and I wasn’t going to come back, then I just got the shoulder done," Eifert said. "That’s why I’m excited now because I’m feeling strong, feeling upbeat. I’m not in any pain. It feels good."


49ers' Justin Smith to announce retirement decision in May
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:17 pm ET) 49ers defensive end Justin Smith plans to sit down with team officials in May and decide whether he'll return for one more season, the Sacramento Bee reports.

"You'll know in about three weeks or so," Smith said Monday.

Smith wouldn't say which way he was leaning. He indicated that the the team's decision to draft a defensive lineman in the first round of the draft did not signal his impending retirement.

"We gave Justin liberty to make his own decision on his time frame," Baalke said after selecting Arik Armstead Thursday. "We went into the draft not thinking about what decision Justin’s going to make or not going to make. We just went in to find the best football player, the best system fit that we could."


Texans agree to four-year extension with LB Whitney Mercilus
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:43 pm ET) The Texans have agreed to a four-year contract extension with linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Mercilus will receive $26 million under the terms of the deal, which will keep in Houston until 2019, ESPN reports. He has missed just one game in his first three years with the Texans, racking up 122 total tackles and 18 sacks while forcing four fumbles.


Titans tailoring offense to Marcus Mariota's strengths
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:18 pm ET) Titans general manager Ruston Webster reiterated Monday that coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff have begun tailoring the offense to fit the strengths of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, NFL.com reports.

"Our coaches have been working on a plan for quite some time now for Marcus," Webster said. "Really to adapting our offense to his skill set -- he has a special skill set. There's really not much he can't do from physical standpoint and he's very bright. That combination is going to allow him to do his own adapting to the NFL game but our coaches have worked very hard on coming up with a system within our system for Marcus. I think it will work well."

The Titans believe that Mariota will work fine under center and reading defenses despite not being asked to do so while playing at Oregon.


Cardinals' Carson Palmer (knee) participates in drills Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (knee) worked out Monday, participating with the first-team offense in all drills, NFL.com reports.

Though the action wasn't close to replicating game-like conditions, the quarterback said he received a big mental boost by joining his team after missing the last eight games of the season due to a torn ACL.

"You want all your guys out there," Palmer said. "I know I want my five starting linemen and my two starting receivers. You don’t ever want to see guys on the sidelines. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to do everything once OTAs start, but I’ll be able to do just about everything. It’s important (to participate) because I enjoy it. I can’t wait for tomorrow and I can’t wait for every day."

Palmer said the injury forces him to "start over from scratch" mechanically, as he works to regain the footwork and balance needed to be successful in the pocket.

“All those little things that still go through my head every couple reps, I’m fighting to get to the point where you just don’t think about that anymore,” Palmer said. “It just becomes natural. Just ingraining all those small mechanical movements is something that takes repetition after repetition.”


49ers GM says LB Aldon Smith developing as leader for team
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(5:35 pm ET) 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said that linebacker Aldon Smith has started to develop as a leader on the field and that he has a “a great look in his eye,” the team has reported.

"It’s a role I’m comfortable with,” Smith said. “I’m kind of one of the older guys on the team now. I’m one of the guys who has been here for a while, so I’m helping out people who need help with anything, whether that’s knowing where to go down here or football questions.”

Smith served a nine-game suspension during the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.

49ers place Chris Borland on reserve/retired list
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) The 49ers placed linebacker Chris Borland on the reserve/retired list Monday, CSNBayArea.com reports.

The move is a formality, as Borland announced his decision to retire in mid-March. The move clears $109.359 in immediate cap space. The 49ers didn't address the inside-linebacker position in this year's draft despite the retirements of Borland and Patrick Willis.


49ers waive/injured Chase Thomas
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) The 49ers have waived/injured linebacker Chase Thomas, the team announced Monday.

Thomas made two special-teams tackles in five games played with the 49ers last season. He tore an ACL while working out earlier in the offseason and will presumably miss the entire 2015 season.


Report: Raiders to release OL Kevin Boothe
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) The Raiders plan to release offensive guard Kevin Boothe, reports Fox Sports 1.

Boothe played in nine games during the 2014 season, but he started 32 games in 2012 and 2013 for the Giants.


Broncos waive T Paul Cornick, WR Jeremy Kelley
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(4:35 pm ET) The Broncos have waived tackle Paul Cornick and wide receiver Jeremy Kelley , the team has announced.

Cornick was under contract with the Broncos for the past three seasons, playing in 12 games and starting six in 2014.

Kelley never played a down with the Broncos, signing a Reserve/Future contract with the team in December 2014.

 
 
 
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